100 Greatest Phillies

100 Greatest Phillies: 29 – Juan Samuel

Juan Samuel
Second Baseman

Career w/Phillies: .262 AVG / 100 HR / 413 RBI / 249 SB

Sammy. From 1983 to 1989, Juan Samuel was the resident thief at Veterans Stadium, swiping bags like it was his job. Well, it was his job. Seventh in franchise history in stolen bases, he holds the single-season mark with his 72 swipes in 1984. He fell back to Earth with 53 in 1985, then 42, 35 and 33 in ’86, ’87 and ’88, respectively. Otherwise he was a consummate free swinger (“You don’t walk off the island, you hit.”), striking out at least 140 times in five consecutive seasons while only drawing an average of about 40 walks per season (he led the National League in strikeouts his first four full seasons in the league). The free swinging paid off a bit, as he clubbed a career-high 28 home runs in 1987, driving in 100 in the process. The two-time All Star and runner-up for 1984 Rookie of the Year was the first player in major league history to reach double figures in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases in each of his first four major league seasons. He was traded in midseason 1989 to the Mets. The Phillies received Lenny Dykstra — a good move, in retrospect. Samuel was inducted into the Phillies Wall of Fame in 2008.

Comment: Sammy was a fine player to watch, and my first favorite player (along with Schmidty). Kid could run. Kid could hit. Of course both tapered off quickly, but for a few great years, Sammy was clearly one of the leaders of the pack in Major League Baseball. He kicks off the top 30.



  1. deal

    February 26, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I was dismayed when the Phils traded away Samuel, but it turned out to be the right move.

    Sammy was the first guy that I followed that had a great combination of power and speed. Ever since then I have been a fan of that type of player.

  2. JJ

    February 26, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Ummm….I seem to recall one Dwight Eugene Gooden walking away with the 1984 ROY

  3. Greg V.

    February 26, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Sammy has a place in my heart as a key player as I was growing up. Having said that, there are many that have been mentioned on this list already that I prefer to Samuel.

  4. Johnson

    February 26, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    with every name that comes out on this list we dont need to hear that you (anyone) would have done it different…of course you would have you are a different person…these are TIM’s 100 greatest phillies chosen by TIM and only TIM….mylanta

  5. Manny

    February 26, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Great choice Tim!

  6. Woodman

    February 26, 2009 at 7:22 pm


  7. Joel

    February 26, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    I remember watching Juan as a kid. Great Pick! One of my all time favorite phillies!

  8. Phillie South

    February 26, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    No way should Sammy be ahead of Bowa

  9. Good Night Joe Carter

    February 26, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    “They’re right. I am the fastest.”

  10. BurrGundy

    February 26, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Juan Samuel , if memory serves me correctly, was not an outfielder as listed when he played for the Phils. He was a second baseman. Nevertheless, he was a genuine gentleman.

  11. mde77

    February 26, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Sammy is ahead of Bowa because this list does’nt respect the Phillies of the era between 76-83. If you never saw them play, you have to go by OPS+. Pete Rose and Larry Bowa’s power numbers would hurt them in the eyes of by someone of this era.

  12. Manny

    February 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I think you’re right BurrGundy… Most of the time he played as a second baseman for the Phils.

  13. Dave S

    February 26, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Yeah, Gooden won ROY84. In hindsight I think this guy was overrated, but a great Phillie at 2B and probably deserves to be top-50 on this list.

  14. Tim Malcolm

    February 26, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    mde77: Clearly you only comment on the site to bitch about the 100 Greatest Phillies and the supposed unfair way in which I treat the Phillies of the late ’70s in early ’80s.

    If you don’t like it, leave. Just leave. I don’t need your negativity around here anymore.

    Yes, I’m 24. BIG DEAL. I’m just as aware of Phillies history as you, I’m sure. I’ve done extensive research to compile this list. And guess what? EIGHT players from the top 40 are from that 1976-83 era you think I’m so against.

    Like I said before, get a clue.

    The major statistic I’m using in comparing players isn’t home runs, or RBI, or average, or slugging percentage, or on-base. It’s OPS+. Yes, OPS+. That statistic weighs players against the competition of their era and against their own era. So a guy playing in the dead-ball era can have the same OPS as Ryan Howard today. Here’s an example:

    Joe Connoly, BOS (NL), 1914: .306 AVG / 9 HR / 65 RBI … 152 OPS+
    Ryan Howard, PHI, 2006: .268 AVG / 47 HR / 136 RBI … 144 OPS+

    I know, it’s crazy, but it’s true. There are stats out there that balance the eras correctly. And I found it!

    By the way, that’s sarcasm.

    With that in mind, Larry Bowa’s OPS+ from … I don’t know … 1976 to 1983:

    64 / 72 / 92 / 71 / 71 / 88 / 69 / 73 (final two years with Cubs)

    By the way, those numbers? Almost all of them are WELL below average. WELL below average. I’m talking Carlos Ruiz.

    Juan Samuel’s OPS+ in his first five seasons:

    113 / 107 / 102 / 102 / 116

    That’s called GOOD. Something Bowa wasn’t. At least offensively. And yes, I know he was a leader, and he played hard, and blah blah blah blah blah. SO DOES DAVID ECKSTEIN.

    So don’t tell me I’m impartial to the holy era of 1976-1983. And BY THE WAY, the Phillies of 2001-2008 haven’t been so bad, either. Guess what? There are FIVE players remaining from that era. What are you gonna do about it?

    You know what I think you should do? Leave.

  15. Fuhs

    February 26, 2009 at 9:37 pm


    ::clap, clap::

    ::clap, clap, clap::

    ::thunderous applause::

  16. Steve.M.

    February 26, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I was at the Vet in 1989 when Samuel had his first home run as a Met. I was a few seats over and recorded the highlights when I got to my grandparents that night for them to see us standing up to watch. (Yes, I have been waiting 20 years for this to come up so thanks TIm!)

    Fun fact: I remember that the last name is pronounced Sam-well. I just checked Wikipedia and found out he has a son named Samuel Samuel.

  17. Larry Bowa

    February 26, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    I’m ten times the ball player Juan Samuel was!

  18. Tom G

    February 26, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Loved sammy’s inside the park at SF….just loved his speed, free-wheeling style…
    I oh so wanted a team of Sammy Sandberg and Franco across the diamond…with Wil Culver and Stone, Ron Jones clubbing it…I loved those days…oh well

  19. Shawn

    February 27, 2009 at 2:04 am

    My favorite player growing up. Loved to see him hit a gapper and know he was trying for a triple. His skills did fade fast though. Tom: love the Ron Jones reference. He would have been a superstar if healthy…I was at Candlestick when he had two triples in one game.

  20. ashmidt

    February 27, 2009 at 6:12 am

    i was really excited when sammy came up, he hed all the tools, legging out a triple was a thing of beauty, he had to be the closest to clemente the phils ever had. a real gentleman too.

  21. Phan in TN

    February 27, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Tim, you rock!

    I love these top 100 Phillies. Since I grew up in Philly and have moved to so many places in the last 20 years, I’m used to being the only Phillies fan I know. This is the kind of reminiscence that makes this site so rewarding to visit.

    I get pissed when people talk about the 80 team and then the 93 team as if there was no baseball in between.

    Juan Samuel made the game fun to watch for me.

  22. Griffin

    February 27, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Tim, I would run through a wall for you after that post! Thank you for your use of OPS+.

    Larry Bowa had 15 career home runs in 16 seasons, but “this list doesn’t respect the Phillies of the era between 76-83”.


    February 27, 2009 at 9:19 am


  24. Tim Malcolm

    February 27, 2009 at 9:29 am

    OPS+ is the great equalizer (for the most part). It allows me – someone who wasn’t alive for the majority of baseball’s existence – to study players correctly and fairly.

  25. Chuck P

    February 27, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Larry Bowa Says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 9:58 pm
    “I’m ten times the ball player Juan Samuel was!”

    In response to the longest Tim Malcolm blog comment in Phillies Nation history, that was pretty funny…

    In the early rounds of this list, I was one of those guys that spoke out against your selections and rankings but the list has been pretty consistent and in the end, it doesn’t really matter… what matters is that we’re getting to hear about all of these great figures in Phillies history. No one will remeber the order of 11-100 in any franchise… people might remember that Samuel and Bowa were both on the list but the order is not important (outside of the top 10). The part that matters is that they were on the list. It doesn’t always have to be an argument…

    With that being said, I still think Puddin Head should have been up here 🙂

  26. Bruce

    February 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I agree with Chuck P. I too have stated my disagreements on Tim’s ranking of certain players on his list. I appreciated that Tim took the time and effort necessary to do some research on the entire history of the franchise and its’ noteworthy players. We have been enlightened for that reason. And as you said, Chuck, the rankings doesn’t really matters as much as the interesting bios about the players of generation pasts. Tim knows that any blogger leaves himself open for second guessing and rebuttals when doing a personal and subjective ranking of “greatest” players for a franchise. And I do think he does a very good job of stimulating and encouraging feedbacks to his blogs. After all, isn’t that the purpose of a blogger?

    I noticed that from Tim’s comments that he seems to have a passion for the use of OPS+ in evaluating a player’s worth and applying to calculations for ranking players on his list. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable about sybermetrics and it’s value. But I wonder how OPS that includes SLUGGING percentage can be an deciding factor for a NON-slugger such as Larry Bowa in comparison to Juan Samuel? Just a thought.

  27. Griffin

    February 27, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    “But I wonder how OPS that includes SLUGGING percentage can be an deciding factor for a NON-slugger such as Larry Bowa in comparison to Juan Samuel? Just a thought.”

    Well that’s just it, Bruce. Having a higher SLUGGING percentage is better than having a lower one. Thus the much higher OPS+ for Samuel. OPS+ also takes into account on base percentage as well. Larry Bowa had a career on base percentage (OBP) of .300, which is awful.

  28. Bruce

    February 27, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    However, my point is we are NOT comparing “sluggers” are we? That is not really fair for Bowa. With Bowa you have to look at his other attributes in his long career.

    From baseball historian website:

    “Larry Bowa, one of the top shortstops of all-time, retired with a handful of fielding records. The aggressive, hard-playing Bowa set since broken records for fielding percentage (.991 in 1979) and for fewest errors (nine in 1972) and retired with the best career fielding pct. by a shortstop in major league history (.980)
    Bowa was selected to five All-Star teams, won Gold Gloves in 1972 and 1978, and his relentless hustling helped his teams win five divisional titles. He collected 2,191 hits in a career that spanned 16 major league seasons and ranks as one of baseball’s best base runners… stealing on average better than 3 bases out of every 4 attempts. Bowa stole 20 or more in nine different years, including a career-best 39 in ’74, and gathered 318 in his career.”

    I am old enough to watched Bowa played for his entire career. And from my perspective, he is truly one of the Phillies’ all time greats and would be on just about anyone’s short list of MLB’s greatest shortstops in history. I like Juan Samuel (aside from atrocious record on strikeouts) and don’t mind his name listed on Tim’s list but NOt his ranking.

  29. Bruce

    February 27, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Oh I forgot to add a comment to your comparing OBP between Samuel and Bowa. If Bowa’s career pct of .300 is “awful”, how would you describe Samuel’s career pct of .315? 😉

    One other comment on Bowa’s hitting; he has hit at least .280 or better for BA four times (including his career best .305 in 1975) as a Phillie. Samuel NEVER hit higher than .272 for the team.

    Just thought I throw that in for good measure.

  30. Mr. Phil

    February 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    I have enjoyed this list and have no problem with where people are listed. It’s opinion as much as it is OPS+ and that’s all right. It has brought entertainment and discussion when we were all thirsting for more Phillies this winter. I am old enough to have seen the 60’s Phils on up and it is my opinion that Bowa was indeed one of the all timers for the Phils because of his defense. That 75-83 Phillies era was phabulous with Schmidt and Carlton, the top 2 on Tim’s list, leading the way. Rose was only on the Phils for a short time, as fun as that was. He is a Cincinatti (sp?) Red great. So he deserves his rating on this list IMO.

    As much as I cherish that 70-80’s group, I enjoy this Phillies team much more passionately. Keep writing, Tim. I tell my fellow Phillie Phanatics about this website so they can enjoy too.

  31. Phillie South

    February 27, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    As the guy who started the Sammy/Bowa mess, when you say greatest Phillie is it just as a player? As the heart and soul of a world series champion and longtime organization fixture, I just thought he would rank higher than Sammy. For that same reason, Vuke, Dallas Green and Paul Owens should be on the list.

  32. Tim Malcolm

    February 27, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    All players. Just playing careers.

  33. Griffin

    February 27, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Bruce, Bowa’s .300 career OBP is awful and Samuel’s .315 career OBP is slightly less awful.

    When it comes to hitting, Juan Samuel was better than Larry Bowa in every single statistic. Power, getting on base, extra base hits, etc. and it’s not like Samuel played in the late nineties in the “juiced” era.

    It goes without saying that Bowa was the superior fielder at the most important spot on the diamond.

    Seriously though, 15 career homers in 16 years.

  34. David

    August 15, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I don’t dislike the guy. When a reporter told him when he was playing centerfield that he looked like Willie Mays, he said “really.” And, then when the reporter said “Willie Mays is 65 years old,” he just laughed. Didn’t snap at the guy. So he’s not a bad guy.

    But lets look at the stats. His average OBP with the Phillies was .310. And, at 2nd base, he was committing an average of more than 20 errors per season. Yes, he stole a lot of bases. But that doesn’t really make up for an OBP of .310 and his lack of defensive skills. He doesn’t belong in the top 30 on this list and should be much lower.

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